THE DAIL IN COMMITTEE. - DAIL IN COMMITTEE.
The Dáil went into Committee on the Railways Bill, 1924.
(3) If on any such review the railway tribunal finds that the net revenue or the average annual net revenue obtained, or which could, with efficient and economical management, have been obtained by the company during the period on the experience of which the review is based is substantially in excess of the standard revenue of the company with such allowance (if any) as appears to the railway tribunal necessary to remunerate adequately any additional capital which may have been raised or provided in respect of expenditure on capital account incurred since the date upon which the standard charges were fixed in the first instance, the railway tribunal shall, unless it is of opinion that owing to change in circumstances the excess is not likely to continue, modify all or any of the standard charges and make a corresponding general modification of the exceptional charges of the company so as to effect a reduction of the net revenue of the company in subsequent years to an extent equivalent to eighty per cent. of such excess.
I beg to move this amendment:—
In sub-section (3), to add after the word "excess," line 66, the following words: "or, if the tribunal is of opinion that the excess arises from causes not due mainly or in great part to the enterprise and good management of the amalgamated company, to such greater percentage of the excess as the tribunal may think proper.
Sub-section (3) of this section provides that if the revenue of the company, or at least the income of the company is such as to allow a reduction in charges, that there shall be a reduction in charges, but allowing 20 per cent. of the excess to be retained by the railway companies over and above the standard revenue. The theory of the Bill I take it is to encourage the company by efficient management to save by allowing 20 per cent. over and above the standard revenue with the hope that that will be an inducement to more efficient management. That is not objected to in this amendment. There are possibilities that the excess will have been obtained not by the action of the company but by the action of the public, the traders perhaps, the local corporation perhaps, the Government itself perhaps. As I think I hinted at an earlier stage, it is quite possible, for instance, that certain circumstances might arise in connection with the development of power schemes on the Shannon. This amendment provided that the tribunal shall have a right to say whether the excess is due to the action of the companies or whether it is, in fact unearned increment; and if so, they may modify the amount to be retained by the company, that is the 20 per cent. to such an extent as they may think proper. It is a provision to enable the tribunal to modify the provisions of the Bill in so far as it ensures that they shall be entitled to 20 per cent. of any excess on saving and will really mean that the company will be guaranteed any such advantage as they may obtain by virtue of good management, but will not be guaranteed any such advantage as they may obtain by virtue of communal or public action. I move the amendment.
The object of the section is that if the actual revenue in any year is found to be in excess of the standard revenue an amount equal to 20 per cent. of such excess shall be retained by the amalgamated undertaking. If Deputy Johnson's wishes are sanctioned by the passing of this amendment we shall not have an inquiry into how that excess arises, and if the tribunal is of opinion that it arises from enterprise and good management, then certain further changes in the division of the excess will be made. First of all, the Dáil ought to consider the extra butden that is going to be put on the tribunal in the deciding of this question. It has to decide the excess arising during the year and apportion out that excess so that some portion of the excess is set down as arising from good management, and some portion not allocated as being due to good management and enterprise. That would be a task which would simply be not possible for the tribunal. It would be humanly impossible for the tribunal to go into all these things. The division made here is 20 per cent. to the company and 80 per cent. towards the reduction of charges, and that is an equitable arrangement. It is obviously the easiest arrangement. But it is an equitable one. It gives an incentive to the company. This point must also be remembered that the excess might be due not to what Deputy Johnson describes as something arising from the community. It might arise from good conditions in the country which would lead to greater use of the railways and greater employment of them by traders. It is considered equitable to give a proportion of 20 per cent and 80 per cent. in the way indicated so that it would be enjoyed by the whole community.
I do not like to be put in the position of supporting the Government on this Bill, but it seems to me that the Bill with all its volume of words must have some good points in it, and perhaps the clause that we have been dealing with is perhaps the saving clause as against the condemnation of the whole Bill. Now, one must realise that whenever a board of directors come into operation as forecasted in the Bill, if you do not give them some incentive to exercise their initiative in the saving of expense, they will be simply a board with control, but with no authority and no incentive towards improvement of any sort.
Taking the Bill as a whole, and leaving that clause in, I think it is reasonable that the Directors should retain some proportion of the prosperity that may accrue to the amalgamated company. I am not very sanguine that it is not rather a work of supererogation to put it in, but at all events, I think it is due to the shareholders that they should get some benefit out of it and the percentage indicated in the Bill is not unreasonable. Deputy Johnson says that the railways may benefit by something outside their activities, some windfalls. We all know that we sometimes benefit by windfalls that we do not, perhaps, deserve,. In my opinion, his amendment would lead to controversy as to whether the directors by their foresight had contributed to this increase in revenue or not.
It would be very hard to decide that, and with very great regret I have to break the coalition which has worked in connection with this Bill on many occasions, and I will support the Government. After all, if the poor shareholders did get a little benefit they would not be altogether dealing with a gold mine. In the past they did not make a great deal of money out of the railways, and if there is an opportunity now for getting some of their own back before nationalisation comes, it ought not to be grudged them.
My objection to the amendment is that on the face of it, it seems to deal only with one thing, but as a matter of fact it deals with two. I do not know whether Deputy Johnson objects exactly to the actual percentage that we have put down. He may think it too high, but if it be to high, we should consider what the percentage would be. That is one point. The other is much more material and it would affect very much the character of the most important element in the Bill, the tribunal. The tribunal, up to this, is of an analytical character very largely, and having analysed, it is easy for it to make up its mind. If this amendment is to pass, the tribunal would have another office, a sort of super - board of management, which would have to determine whether there were any profits in excess of a certain sum, and whether that excess should or should not go to the shareholders.
Having regard to the other duties we have imposed on the tribunal, I do not think it would be fair to it, or to the other duties it has to discharge, that it should be also called on to discharge this extra duty. I am afraid I could not accept the amendment. If the percentage that is put down is earned in the ordinary development of the business of the country, that entitles the shareholders to their particular advantage. If, on the other hand, the excess is due to good management, I think Deputy Johnson subscribes to that, because, according to the amendment. I think he means that if there were good management the advantage could be derived by the shareholders. I think the shareholders are better entitled on the other ground, which does not appear to me to be included in the amendment.
From these facts—but particularly from the fact that the character of the tribunal would certainly undergo a change if it had to decide whether or not a percentage or a portion of the excess should go to the shareholders—I am afraid I could not support the amendment.
The President, I should have thought, would not object to giving this function to the tribunal, because he thought in the earlier stages of the Bill, that the tribunal was quite competent to arrange the amalgamation, fix the terms, and listen to all arguments for and against the terms of the amalgamation, at the same time as they would be preparing the schemes, reviewing rates, and generally conducting the preliminary of the fixation of rates, and that it was quite an abnormal tribunal which could do very many wonderful things at the same time. But by the time the tribunal gets to work and is fixing a ratio it will have a good part of that duty already accomplished, so that it is not really asking them to do very much more than they will be required to do under the Bill. If I had been asked to prophesy, it would have been the very simplest thing for me to have said that Deputy Hewat would not support this amendment, because he stands frankly for unearned increment, and that capital shall get what it can. I am trying to suggest that in this Bill there should be some recognition of the fact that there may accrue wealth to a railway company, there may accrue revenue to a railway company by the action of others besides the railway shareholders; that the community action may very easily and very simply add to the revenue and the profit of a railway company without any action, without any prevision, on the part of the company or the directors.
We have suggested in this amendment that the company should be entitled to that 20 per cent. which is clearly due to management, but if there is clearly due some of that excess to the activity of others besides the company, then those others, the trading community should get the benefit in lower rates. Had the Minister for Education been here I would have suggested to him that he should put sub-section (3) of this section as an exercise in reading in primary schools, and perhaps if I were Deputy O'Connell, I would ask the Dáil to read this sub-section after me. But maybe if I tried, the Ceann Comhairle would rule me out. But it is a most interesting exhibition of English phraseology and does require a little bit of care in the reading of it. Perhaps the President, who has explained that the draftsman has been laid up, would attribute that illness to the drafting of this section but for the fact that it is drawn from the British Bill. The amendment frankly asks the Dáil to agree to recognise the principle that the community-created profit should not go to the railway shareholders but should go back to the community, or to the trading interests who are looking for lower rates. Of course, allied with this is the assumption which I make that the guaranteed dividend is a very satisfactory return to the shareholders, and if they are to have anything beyond that it should certainly be confined to any profits which are directly traceable to good management and railway enterprise, rather than to communal effort, and perhaps traders activities. That is why I move the amendment.
Of course, Deputy Johnson's point of view on this is quite clear, and I think that the Committee will understand my point of view. Deputy Johnson and his party are actuated by principles, but the Government have no principles at all. Deputy Johnson refers to this section and the rest of the Bill as being of British manufacture. I do not object to that. British manufacture is quite good, but British manufacture may not always be quite suitable to transfer to Irish soil. The President has said that he does not want to put any more on the tribunal, but when we analyse this Bill we can see that a little more on the tribunal would not hurt it, because the tribunal is of such a superman capacity that it could stand a little more. But the real reason that I want protection for the shareholders is that the Government set up a tribunal and they also embody in the Bill the management of the railways by the directors. As far as I can see, the directors who are representing the shareholders will have very little to say in the management of the company. However, I like this section, because it protects the directors—save the mark —and the shareholders whom they represent, from the further autocratic encroachment of this body which is going to be set up to represent the Government, and everybody else, in railway management.
Amendment put and declared lost.
The question is: "That Section 53 stand part of the Bill."
I would like the Minister to explain as to how he proposes that this tribunal can estimate this potential revenue. It seems to be a very difficult task, and I do not see what facts they will go on. We are putting a good deal on the tribunal. It seems to be a very complicated problem in mathematics, and I do not know how we will feel satisfied with the result. My colleague says it is a problem in metaphysics.
I am afraid I cannot give the Deputy much satisfaction as to how the tribunal is to work. All I can do is to provide experts on the tribunal, give them a certain task, and hope they will get through.
Question put and agreed to.
(1) From and after the passing of this Act the rates of pay, hours of duty, and other conditions of service of railway employees shall be regulated in accordance with agreements made or to be from time to time made between such employees or their trade unions or other representatives of the one part and the railway companies and other persons by whom they are respectively employed or the representatives of such companies or persons of the other part.
(2) The original or a counterpart, or a copy, certified in such manner as the Minister shall direct to be a true copy, of every such agreement as is mentioned in the foregoing sub-section shall be deposited with the Minister within one month after the passing of this Act or the making of such agreement, whichever shall be the later.
(3) In this Part of this Act the expression "railway employee" means a person who is employed by a railway company or the Irish Railway Clearing House, in any of the grades specified in the Eighth Schedule to this Act, and whose station, depôt, or other place of employment is situate in Saorstát Eireann.
Amendment by Mr. Davin:—
To delete sub-section (1) and substitute two new sub-sections as follows:—
(1) From and after the passing of this Act all questions relating to the rates of pay, hours of duty, and other conditions of service of railway employees shall be regulated in accordance with agreements made or to be made from time to time between the representatives of the railway companies and the Irish Railway Clearing House of the one part, and the trade union's representative of such employees of the other part, and, in the case of the grades specified in the Eighth Schedule to this Act, being the grades in respect of which the Central Wages Board and the Irish Railways Wages Board have been established by agreement between the parties aforesaid, and such other grades as may hereafter be added to the specified grades by agreement between the said parties shall in default of such agreements be referred to the Central Wages Board and on appeal to the Irish Railways Wages Board.
(2) Any necessary modifications with respect to the Central Wages Board and the Irish Railways Wages Board and Railway Councils to meet the altered situation arising from the passing of this Act shall be made by agreement between the amalgamated company and the other parties concerned.
The object of the amendment is to bring me Bill into accord with the position that has been created by the establishment of the Central Wages Board and the Irish Railways Wages Board, and more or less to recognise the existence of these bodies in the Bill. I do not propose to enter into any argument in the absence of Deputy Davin, who is ill. I merely formally move the amendment.
Deputy Johnson says the amendment sets out to give recognition to the Central Wages Board and the Irish Railways Wages Board. If that is the object then I must resist the amendment. These two bodies were not created by the Oireachtas, or any law passed by the Oireachtas, and they may disappear any day. It seems a peculiar thing to legislate here for two bodies which may disappear any moment after the passing of the Act. In addition, there is the further objection, that these Boards consist of representatives of companies wholly outside the Saorstát, and from that point of view they are undesirable bodies to bring under the operation of this Bill.
They are not wholly outside the Saorstát, are they?
No, what I should have said was, they include in their ranks representatives of certain companies, which companies are wholly outside the Saorstát.
Of course, I recognise that there may appear to be a weakness in that fact, but it remains that the companies within have agreed with the companies without to follow this procedure. This amendment does not add that there should be any control over that Wages Board. It is a Board set up by voluntary agreement, and the amendment allows for modification, if change is to take place in respect of the Wages Board. I think owing to the fact that there has been set up this voluntary agreement that the employees of the railway companies and the companies themselves, should be recognised, that the Bill would be strengthened, and the general position be improved by recognising that statutorily. While it does not give any added authority to the Government of the Saorstát, or the railway tribunal, over the Wages Boards, it recognises the existence of the Boards, and I think it is valuable in that respect.
I think the purpose of the amendment is clearly to carry on the two boards at present in existence, but I think everybody must recognise the difficulty of that in so far as the Boards are created voluntarily by arrangement as between the companies and trade unions, and have no power to come to decision unless practically a unanimous decision, not as arbitrators. Therefore, to embody a form of procedure such as that in legislation of this sort would give an importance to that form over and above what its value really is. One must recognise that a board of that sort, that can come to no decision unless it is a decision which is unanimous, would be practically useless as a means of arbitrating between employers and employees. It may be very useful to help in coming to a decision, but it is certainly not the thing you could put into an Act of Parliament.
Of course, when Deputy Hewat takes that line he is arguing against the establishment of public inquiry into matters which might easily lead to disputes, and arguing against the establishment of any conciliation tribunal. If you cannot put into an Act of Parliament any such board or tribunal, well I am prepared to accept that view, if it is pressed, and simply tell the Deputy that he is going back on all those things which have been urged from his side of the Dáil. The establishment of this railway tribunal, which was done in Ireland by voluntary arrangement, was a duplication of a similar arrangement in England, which was in fact embodied in the British statute, and the whole form and manner of the tribunal is embodied in the British statute. I am not very anxious to press the amendment: I am not quite sure of its value, but I think that it is doing something, that it is going some little way towards recognising that the railway companies and railway employees are public servants, and exist to serve the public and the community, and that it is well to have established some kind of tribunal which may be in the nature of a buffer to avoid sudden shocks upon the community. If there is to be no such tribunal, then, of course, the regular, and shall I say, old-fashioned method, of discussing issues in dispute, leading to lock-outs or strikes, possibly without even reference to the public convenience, and possibly even without notice—if that is what Deputy Hewat desires I have nothing to say. But there has arisen a public opinion, a public opinion that has been subscribed to by the railway trades unions, and agreed to by the companies, that it is a rather good thing to have something in the nature of these boards, which will discuss and, if necessary, make public the issues in dispute. While it is not, and I hope never will be, an arbitration tribunal with compulsory powers, it does allow an opportunity for the matters in dispute to be discussed publicly, and a public opinion may be created in the matter. As to the merits of the claim, or the merits of resisting the claim, if the Dáil is to be led by Deputy Hewat in this matter then we know where we are.
There is no fear of that.
The existence of this tribunal seems to me to be an advance in the direction of civilisation, and I rather think on the whole that we should register that advance in this Bill. If it is preferred that greater risks should be run by the community than to have such a thing as this registered in the Bill, I am not going to quarrel. I am only going to say that I think the Dáil is unwise.
I agree with what Deputy Johnson says as regards tribunals. There is nothing in the Bill, as far as I know abolishing the different grades of the Conciliation Board, if I may call it so, that operates in connection with the railways. It is to be assumed that these Boards will continue unless the triumvirate considers it unwise to carry them on.
Amendment put, and declared lost.
I beg to move:—
In sub-section (3), lines 3 and 4, after "House" to delete the words "in any of the grades specified in the Eighth Schedule to this Act."
This amendment is, I think, of more importance. "The expression ‘railway employee' means a person who is employed by a railway company or the Irish Railway Clearing House, in any of the grades specified in the Eighth Schedule." The passing of this section as it stands would rule out all those people engaged in the railway shops, and I do not think that is intended. The Eighth Schedule deals with station-masters, clerks, supervisors, signalmen, guards, traffic staff, goods staff, cartage staff, carriage and wagon examiners, drivers, shed staff, gangers, signal and telegraph line men, etc. But all these people engaged in the railway workshops are ruled out of that. The amendment asks the Dáil to delete the words "in any of the grades specified in the Eighth Schedule to this Act." Perhaps the Minister would explain whether it is his intention that the regulations providing for the conditions and services of railway employees shall only apply to these grades. Does he deliberately intend that railway shopmen should be excluded from the operation of this Part 4?
Again I am somewhat in a difficulty owing to this amendment being brought to my notice late. Previously Deputy Davin had another amendment down, if I may discuss it here, relevant to the new proposal. Deputy Davin proposed to insert "and in such other grades as may hereafter be brought within the scope of the agreements referred to in this section by agreement between the parties thereto." It was proposed to accept that. Is there any point not met by Deputy Davin's first proposal which is included in the second proposal to omit certain words?
I think there is. There are certain grades that have been working under agreements, and it is believed that the amended proposal is much more likely to effect the end sought than the original amendment. The object of it is to bring under Part 4 of the Bill the railway shopmen, which the original amendment does not do effectively.
I think it is clear that this is intended to bring in what are purely railwaymen. The men whom Deputy Johnson refers to as shopmen are, of course, boilermakers and other trades unionists of that sort. The difficulty, so far as the amendment is concerned, is that these trades are regulated pretty well by their own organisations, and they would not, and never did, come into a body such as the railway organisation. They are governed more by the outside conditions as a trade rather than the internal conditions as regards a railway. As far as I can see, Schedule 8 embraces what would be railwaymen, as apart from the men in the shops, who are more general and whose agreements stretch out beyond the radius of the railways.
May I say a word on this? I know that the railway shopmen are interested in the compensation schedule. I met some of them from time to time on this matter, and they have put it up in various forms, but not in regard to this particular part of the Bill. They are interested in the schedule dealing with compensation because they do not consider that they are covered by the terms "railway servants," which has a meaning by usage and custom which they fear would exclude 15 or 16 trades unions that make up the railway shopmen. I have, as a matter of fact, spoken to the Minister about an amendment that would put it beyond doubt that the Third Schedule, dealing with compensation, would apply to railway shopmen. and I understand that the Ministry are willing to accept that amendment. I do not think that they have ever put up anything with reference to this particular provision, which leaves the terms of employment as a matter for agreement, preserves existing agreements and does not impose any obligations on anybody.
Although the Attorney-General is quite right in referring to the Superannuation clauses there is a demand in respect to this question of wages and conditions of service:—"From and after the passing of this Act the rates of pay, hours of duty, and other conditions of service of railway employees shall be regulated in accordance with agreements made or to be from time to time made between such employees or their trade unions or other representatives of the one part and the railway companies and other persons by whom they are respectively employed, or the representatives of such companies or persons of the other part." Then we are asked to say that that refers only to certain sections of railway employees, excluding a very considerable number of other sections, who are all governed by agreement with the railway companies. As a matter of practice, these employees make agreements with the railway companies and the proposal in the amendment is to ensure that these agreements will be governed by section 54.
What Deputy Johnson said is perfectly correct, and we have got to an issue. But consider Section 54 with Deputy Davin's first amendment added to it, bringing
"in such other grades as may hereafter be brought within the scope of the agreements referred to in this section by agreement between the parties thereto."
"Conciliation grades" covers a certain section of employees who made agreements regarding these conciliation proposals that did not include shopmen. Conciliation grades are the only grades referred to in the Schedule. What I desire in this amendment is to provide that every tradesman who works for railway companies in railway shops shall also be brought into this provision, notwithstanding the fact that they are not within the conciliation grades. As a matter of practice, you are ruling out a specific reference to the Wages Boards, and it seems to follow inevitably that you should bring in non-conciliation grades under this section.
The difference, as far as I understand it, is, you take people in certain grades, with whom, or about whom agreements were already in existence, and you carry those over, and you make arrangements for any further agreements hereinafter to be brought in. The term "railway employe" is limited by Section 3 and confined to the people mentioned in the Eighth Schedule. That would, of course, put out of court such people as Deputy Johnson has alluded to. But if Deputy Davin's first amendment were accepted, and there were added to the definition of "railway employe""such other grades as may hereinafter be brought within the scope of the agreements referred to in this section by agreements between the parties thereto," then you have everything provided for. You have mention of agreements that have already been made, and you make provision for future agreements. I think the section, with Deputy Davin's first amendment, includes everything.
Is it not really a question of fact whether there are any agreements regulating the terms of service with the shopmen? If there is none Deputy Davin's amendment does all that is required, as it enables agreements to be made. If it is suggested that there are binding agreements, the matter should be looked into to see whether they should be carried out. I understand there is none.
I do not want to object to any concession that the Minister is going to give in this Bill, but I think he is going further than he realises in this matter. What you call "railway grades" cannot be mixed up with grades which are only supplemental as railway grades. In other words, take the case of boiler-makers and carpenters. They are governed by trades unions which are very much larger outside than inside railways, and if the Minister brings in these grades he is going to court trouble. For instance, if a carpenter was dismissed at Inchicore, it might mean, if he was in the railway group, that the railway might have to shut down. I think there would be difficulty in carrying out the intention of the amendment.
I think the Minister said he was prepared to accept amendment No. 1 (a) as originally sent in. Without having an opportunity of consulting Deputy Davin about the amendment, I would suggest that the Dáil should accept the Minister's proposal. We could discuss the question of amending it at a later stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move: "In sub-section (3), line 4, after the word ‘Act,' to insert the words ‘and in such other grades as may hereafter be brought within the scope of the agreements referred to in this section by agreement between the parties thereto.'"
Is the new amendment agreed to?
The principle is agreed to.
You can only agree to an amendment; you cannot agree to a principle.
May I, then, reserve it for consideration, as it may require to be re-drafted?
We can insert the amendment, and afterwards it can be amended on Report.
Amendment put, and agreed to.
Question: "That Section 54, as amended, stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
(1) With a view to securing and promoting the public safety, or the interests of the public, or of trade, or of any particular locality, the railway tribunal may, on the application of any body of persons representing any such interests, by order require the amalgamated company or any other railway company in respect to that portion of its undertaking situate in Saorstát Eireann to afford such reasonable railway services, facilities, and conveniences upon and in connection with its undertaking (including the provision of such minor alterations and extensions and improvements of existing works as will not involve in any one case an expenditure exceeding ten thousand pounds) as may be specified in the order:
Provided that, if on any such application a company satisfies the railway tribunal that under all the circumstances the capital required for the purpose cannot be provided or expended as proposed without prejudicially affecting the interests of the then existing stockholders, the order shall not be made:
Provided further that the powers under this sub-section shall be in addition to and not in derogation of any other existing powers of requiring measures for securing the safety of the public or the provision of reasonable facilities.
(2) The Minister may by order require the amalgamated company or any other railway company in respect to that portion of its undertaking situate in Saorstát Eireann to comply with any recommendation of an inspector duly appointed under the Regulation of Railways Act, 1871.
(3) Where any coroner holds or is about to hold, an inquest on the death of any person occasioned by an accident, of which notice for the time being is required by or in pursuance of the Regulation of Railways Acts, 1840 to 1889, to be sent to the Minister, and makes a written request to the Minister in this behalf, the Minister may appoint an inspector or some person possessing legal or special knowledge to assist in holding such inquest, and the person so appointed shall act as the assessor of the coroner, and the return to be made by the coroner to the Minister under the Acts aforesaid shall be made by such person in lieu of by the coroner, and the return shall be made public in like manner as in the case of a formal investigation of an accident under the Regulation of Railways Act, 1871.
(4) The provisions of the Regulation of Railways Acts, 1840 to 1889, with respect to the opening of any railway, shall be extended to apply to the inspection of all new or reconstructed works, including bridges and viaducts.
(5) Any order of the Minister under this section shall be complied with by any railway company to which the order relates, and in the event of non-compliance shall (subject as hereinbefore provided) be enforceable by order of the railway tribunal on the application of the Minister.
I beg to move the following amendment:—
Before Section 55, to insert a new section as follows:—
(1) Save as is hereinafter in this section provided all appointments to any office or situation in the clerical grades of the service of a railway company shall be made by means of open competitive examination in accordance with regulations made by the railway company.
(2) Every such open competitive examination shall be open to all persons desiring to attend the same who are ordinarily resident in Ireland, and who pay the fees and possess the qualifications as to age, health and character prescribed by the regulations relating to the examination.
(3) A railway company may by special regulation provide that not more than 25 per cent. of the vacancies in the clerical grades of its service shall be filled by means of limited competitive examinations and where an examination is so limited only persons in the employment of the company or the children of such persons shall be admitted thereto.
(4) A copy of every regulation made under this section shall be lodged with the Minister as soon as may be after it is made.
(5) It shall be competent for the Railway Council and the Central Wages Board and, on appeal, the Irish Railways Wages Board to take into consideration, as a matter affecting the conditions of service of railway employees, any question as to a regulation made by a railway company for the purpose of this section, including any question as to the number, proportion or nature of offices or situations appointment to which is made subject to limited competition under sub-section (3) of this section.
(6) For the purposes of this section, the Irish Railway Clearing House shall be deemed to be a railway company.
The object of this amendment is to secure that the principle of open competition will operate in filling all vacancies in the clerical grades in the railway. The principle of open competition is a well recognised and generally accepted one, and there is no necessity to use arguments in support of it at this time of the day. It was, and is, the practice of most of the largest companies at present to have these vacancies filled by competitive examinations, and this amendment is intended to provide that that practice would apply in the case of the new amalgamated company and in other companies left outside it. Provision is made whereby regulations governing the examination should be made by the railway company. There is a further provision in sub-section (3) of the amendment making provision whereby a certain percentage of the places may be reserved under the regulations to be made by the companies, limited competition amongst servants in the employment of the companies or their children. I am sure that the Minister will have no difficulty in accepting this amendment.
I am in sympathy with the principle of this amendment, but I would like to indicate to the Deputy that he has not made provision for exceptional appointments such as those in the case of experts. In many cases these will enter into the service of the new company considerably above the age at which men generally start first in such service. It may, for instance, be desired to transfer a good man from some company not in Saorstát Eireann at all. No provision is made here for such appointments. I think there is just a little difficulty, too, in calling in the Railway Council and the Central Wages Board. I agree with the principle of competitive examination and the reservation of a percentage of places for the relatives of men already in the service.
I think that the first point raised by Deputy Alton would hardly apply. I think the experts of whom he spoke would hardly come under the heading of clerical grade.
I confess that I do not know enough about the service to state that they would, but they might, for instance, in the auditing or administrative offices.
I think Deputy O'Connell has met Deputy Alton on that point, and that the amendment has reference merely to clerical grades. So far as the amendment is concerned the principle of competitive examination may be, and is, accepted. This question of the reservation of a certain percentage of vacancies for the relatives of employees in the service may cause considerable difficulty, and I would have to consider it. Sub-section (5) refers to the Central Wages Board and the Irish Railway Wages Board, and I must resist that on the ground, as already stated when these bodies were mentioned previously, that they are not permanent bodies so far as statute goes, and they include people for whom we cannot and should not attempt to legislate. The idea of competitive examination is acceptable, and consideration will be given to the question of retaining a certain number of vacancies for employees. I am not ready to say now that that is accepted. The appeal to these two bodies, the Railway Wages Board and the Central Wages Board, is not possible. If the Deputy would leave it in that stage for further consideration on Report I will meet him.
In view of what happened in regard to a former amendment as regards the Irish Railway Wages Board, and the Central Wages Board, I am not inclined to press that paragraph.
It is not of very great importance in connection with this particular matter, but so far as sub-section (3) is concerned I think it is a reasonable proposal. There is nothing mandatory about it; it only says that the railway company may make this reservation. It is not unusual in public services such as the post office and others to have a certain proportion of appointments kept for people already in the service by promotion to certain posts. Likewise it is quite a usual procedure in certain services that the children of people in the service should have a special privilege. This is, as I say, not mandatory and the percentage is the maximum one, and I think the Minister will find that it will be quite a satisfactory regulation to have embodied in this amendment. I do not press sub-section (5) of the amendment in view of what happened previously.
Nobody would have the hardihood to get up here and say that the competitive examination system was not the best way to fill positions generally, but I think a certain amounts of latitude should be allowed in so far as competitive examinations do not always provide the very best men. In the case of a board surely they might have a limited selection for discretion. We all know that many men who can pass examinations brilliantly may not be good for anything else except for passing examinations. It is hard to say that it is always the best men who are got by competitive examination. I confess that I do not see that there is any better system, but I think that a little discretionary power should be allowed to fill positions of this sort.
On that point it may happen that sometimes through the system of open competition you get men to pass examinations who will not be good for anything else. The system has been tried, and it has so far been found to be the best system. It is the system which applies to all Government services, and, as is suggested, regulations governing the examination may be made so that, so far as it is possible to do so, the best type of candidate will be got and the best appointments will be made in that way. If you have a system of nomination by a board of directors it is bound to lead to dissatisfaction, and in any case to allegations of favouritism, even though such favouritism does not exist. I have heard such allegations repeatedly in services such as the Bank, where nomination is necessary. I think that on the whole you cannot get a more satisfactory system than that of open public competition, even though it may have some of the drawbacks to which Deputy Hewat refers.
I should, I suppose, speak on this, but I would feel rather like a murderer defending his crimes, as I have taken part in so many of them myself at both ends. I quite agree with Deputy O'Connell that we have no other system which will give the public confidence. I am in favour of this suggestion of reservation of a number of places, and of a limited competitive examination to be reserved for the relatives of employees. I think it will make for efficiency and will encourage the employees to work better for the company. A boy brought up in the atmosphere of a railway is likely to learn a lot of things at an early age that will be useful to him later on in his career. There is another point which Deputy O'Connell may have overlooked when proposing this competitive examination, and that is that he probably intended that it should be coupled with a medical examination.
There are regulations in sub-section (2): "The candidate shall possess qualifications as to age, health and character."
Is the Deputy withdrawing the amendment on the guarantee that Sections 1 and 2 and 4 are to be considered favourably and No. 3 considered with some reserve?
I am withdrawing No. 5, and I was hoping that the Minister would see his way to accept the rest.
We will have to see how far we can allow for No. 3 being incorporated in any section of the Bill. As it stands it is doubtful.
Very well, but I confess I have not heard any solid argument against the inclusion of No. 3.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
On behalf of Deputy Davin I move:—
Before Section 55 to insert a new section as follows:—
(1) Not later than one year after the coming into operation of the amalgamation scheme in accordance with this Act, the amalgamated company shall prepare and submit to the trade unions representing railway employees a scheme for the establishment on a contributory membership and actuarial basis of a new Superannuation Fund for the benefit of any persons or classes of persons who may be from time to time employed by the amalgamated company, other than classes of persons employed in the clerical and supervisory grades of its service who are eligible for membership of the Railway Clearing System Superannuation Fund Corporation.
(2) A scheme for the establishment of a Superannuation Fund prepared under this section shall provide for the representatives of the members of the Fund sharing in the management thereof.
The clerical and supervisory grades have already schemes of superannuation, but there is a demand very widespread throughout the railway services in those companies which have not any superannuation scheme that some such scheme should be instituted, contributory by the employees. The proposal in this amendment is that it shall be an obligation on the company to prepare such a scheme, submit it to the unions, and presumably discuss the whole question with the union representing the employees, with a view to its general adoption. It was not thought desirable to import into the Bill a fixed scheme. That would be quite impossible, for the suggestion in this amendment is that the duties shall be imposed upon the company to prepare such a scheme in association and in conference with the employees, and to do that within a year. There is a very general desire on the part of railway employees of all sections that some such scheme of this kind should be adopted.
This proposal of a contributory scheme would not be unfavourably considered by the company. As far as I understand the position, the proposals were put forward, but on the actuarial figures the cost was considered too high by the staff of the railway company. To embody in this Bill compulsory proposals for a scheme, the outlines of which have not been agreed on or even are not practicable, seems to be rather reckless. Of course, Deputy Johnson speaks with greater certainty on the question, but I do not think from my experience that it would be easy to get a voluntary agreement amongst employees for any scheme on a contributory basis. I have made various attempts in that direction but I have found many, young men especially, show great disinclination to join any such scheme. If you saddle the older men on to a scheme of that sort it immediately becomes impossible as regards cost. I venture to suggest there would be a great deal of difficulty in getting the employees of the railway as a whole to agree to any such scheme on a contributory basis. There would be bound to be great difference of opinion and, at all events, without some figures before them, I think to put a compulsory section like this in a Bill would be a mistake. After this Bill is passed there is nothing to prevent the company on the one hand and the employees on the other from coming together and forming a scheme outside the Bill altogether.
The difficulty is to get a scheme which is sound from the actuaries' point of view and practical from the point of view of the company, and particularly the men. It is pretty doubtful if such a scheme could be agreed within a year after the coming into operation of the amalgamation scheme, because that would be a year in which the future finances of the undertaking will not be quite clear. This task to be put on the amalgamated company for the period of that year would be very burthensome. The amendment as proposed here is also unlimited as far as the personnel goes. "For the benefit of any persons or classes of people who may from time to time be employed with," certain exceptions stated. There is no objection to a fund except to get it sound actuarially and practicable and if the Deputy would be content with the acceptance in principle of the putting an obligation on the company to produce a scheme, without stating definitely this year, or without stating it so widely to be for the benefit of persons or classes of persons I would agree. You might indicate, in so far as it is possible, that it should be brought in within the year. I do not think it would be right to tie them to that period of one year, particularly the year after the passing through of the amalgamated scheme.
On the question of the period I quite see that there is some reason perhaps against fixing one year. That period, perhaps, might be extended. Nevertheless, there should be a period fixed if there is to be an obligation upon the companies. As to the scope of the scheme, I do not see the point of the Minister's objection, because if he has in mind temporary employees, for instance, it is not going to do the scheme any harm, and it is not going to do the fund any harm. If they have to contribute for a period, and they are no longer employed, the fund benefits and they do not. If it is a fear that the older persons might be excluded, I have no doubt that any such scheme would have to take into account the age, and in any case the scheme itself, while we suggest that it should include all persons from time to time employed, would make provision for these exceptional cases that the Minister seems to fear. The reason why it is desirable to put in an all-embracing phrase of that kind is to ensure that the various classes of employees will be brought within the scope of such a proposal. Notwithstanding what Deputy Hewat has said, I have had representations from very wide areas, indeed from people from all parts of the country and from all grades of railway employees, on this question. The proposal is one that I am not particularly enthusiastic about, but the railwaymen, being a very conservative and law-abiding body of men, desire that they shall be placed in this position, and that provision shall be made for their old age. As I have said, they are a very conservative body of men. They want to be made secure, and they are anxious to contribute to that security. I think myself it would be an improvement on the Bill to put in a clause of this kind. I would like it to be stronger, and it would satisfy the men better if it were more definite. Frankly, I will admit it has not been possible to frame a section which would be more definite and would give satisfaction, but if the Minister will agree to the general proposal, with the alteration that the period might be longer than one year, on the ground that he states that the first twelve months will be a rather crowded period, I would have no objection. I think that any section of the kind should be one which will include all grades of railway employees.
The next question that arises on this matter is, what is the amount of the contribution that would be chargeable on the railway companies, and who is going to pay it? You have got this amalgamated company on a certain basis and this contributory proposal is extremely vague. When it is worked out it is certainly going to cost the railway companies a good bit of money. I do not object to that, but what is the amount that it is going to cost the amalgamated company? I would like to know who is going to pay it, because it is either a question of increased rates bearing it or it will have to come out of the profit and loss account of the railway company. I do not want to put a spoke in the very conciliatory attitude of the Minister towards this proposal from my friends on the opposite benches, but in this matter I think he is biting off a little bit more than he can chew in some directions. I just want to point out that, not with any idea of opposing this scheme, because I realise that a large body, such as the railway servants, would be in a far better position to carry on a scheme of that kind than a small body composed of comparatively few people. At the same time this proposal is a very far-reaching one, and I think we ought to know more about what it is going to cost and how it is going to operate before it is put in as a provision in the Bill as it now stands. I know that a great grievance with railway servants has been that after a lifetime of service they get no pension. That seems to be a very great grievance, and I have no hesitation in stating that, but at the same time this provision on a contributory basis raises very large questions—that is to say, to compel men who do not want to join this scheme to pay into it. For instance, in connection with the banks, they have a contributory scheme. It works all right, but it is a compulsory scheme. A great many bankers, in the early years of their service at any rate, resent very much the deductions that are made from their salaries. Of course, they may appreciate the scheme a good deal when they get older, and when, I am sure, they derive some benefits from it. But at all events the proposition put forward here is a very big one.
I have already stated that I am accepting in principle the putting of an obligation on the company to produce a superannuation scheme which is to be actuarially sound and on a contributory basis.
Am I to understand from the Minister that he will insert on Report Stage an amendment embodying the principle that he has referred to on this amendment, yet apart from the year and apart from the question of the range? Will the Minister agree to put in an amendment more or less embodying his ideas on the Report Stage?
Yes, if you allow me to emphasise the words "more or less."
I think it would be preferable if the Minister would enlarge a little bit more upon what he has in mind, because it would perhaps help him and help us between now and the Report Stage.
The only thing I have in mind is the difficulty of preparing a scheme which, as I say, will be sound from the actuaries' point of view, and would be practicable mainly from the point of view of the men. Deputations of men have come to me on this particular point. They have stated that the men are in agreement and will contribute at what even appears to be an extravagant rate. It is well, of course, to point out that a scheme has never yet been put before me in detail of which could be said after examination that it was sound and that the men had actually considered the contribution. I can well believe that while the men in general may say "We will agree to a scheme of this sort or of that, and are agreeable to pay even a fairly heavy rate of contributions," they may adopt a different attitude altogether when an actual matter of fact proposition is put before them, and when deductions are going to be made from their wages as a result of that. The amendment I intend to bring in on Report Stage will be limited to producing a scheme. There is no question of making this scheme compulsory. As far as this amendment goes it will have to be a matter of agreement, and I presume it is a matter of agreement between us now.
In view of the Minister's statement I ask leave to withdraw the amendment on behalf of Deputy Davin. Before the Report Stage is reached I hope to be able to agree upon the proposal.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move an amendment on sub-section (1), line 11, after the word "interest" to insert the words "or of the Minister." This is rather a simple amendment, and it is to ensure that the Minister will have the right to represent a body of persons. The section says: "With a view to securing, and promoting the public safety, or the interests of the public, or of a trade, or of any particular locality, the railway tribunal may on the application of any body of persons, representing any such interest" and the amendment is to insert after the words "represent any such interest" the words "or of the Minister." The object is that the Minister should have a right to appear before the tribunal and to secure the public safety or the interest of the public. I think there should be no objection to inserting these words.
So far as the public safety is concerned, the Minister, actually, has the right to appear, and he has the power, if necessary, to appear, so that, as far as that stage of the amendment goes, it is unnecessary. But the question that the Minister should be the judge as to what is in the interests of trade, or of the locality would, in my opinion, place the Minister in a very unfortunate position, leaving it to him to judge what is the public interest. There is a right to representation, before the tribunal, to those interested, and to traders or those associated with a particular locality, and it would be for them to make a case, and not for the Minister. So far as the public safety is concerned the Minister has power, and it will not be necessary for him to interfere.
The Minister has forgotten the words "or the interests of the public." I think it would not be difficult to imagine circumstances where no private person would come forward to appear before the tribunal, when somebody ought to appear to initiate an action before the tribunal. The obvious person to appear in the interests of the public is the Minister. It does not say that the Minister must, any time anybody else shall come forward, himself come forward, and have the right to appear specifically. The interests of the public, however, are so general often that there is no specific body who will take the matter in hands, and the Minister is, therefore, the obvious authority to seek, to be heard by the tribunal.
The point that Deputy Johnson has stressed is a point where I said the Minister has already the necessary powers. For instance, as one of the many sections which gives the Minister power even in this Bill, I refer to section 18 (3), which says that the Minister shall be entitled to appear at hearings upon any proceedings before the tribunal; and at various places throughout the Bill it is provided he is entitled to be at the hearing, and has that power conferred on him, and occasion is taken to ensure that the Minister will have every power where the public interest is concerned to appear before the tribunal. So that from that point of view I say that it is unnecessary to make this addition. Provision has already been made.
The section the Minister has referred to I do not think is as definite as is required: "The Minister shall be entitled to appear and to be heard at any proceedings before the tribunal." That assumes proceedings have been initiated and the tribunal is hearing a case of an application and it gives the Minister the right to intervene in such a case. I think a little more than that is required and that, in this section 55, which refers to the applications of any body of persons it is the initiation of proceedings before the tribunal. Now, the earlier section that the Minister referred to rather suggests that the Minister may intervene in a case which has already been initiated and which is being heard. I want to give the Minister power to initiate proceedings before the tribunal in the public interest and I am doubtful whether in the Bill there are framed such powers.
The point made by Deputy Johnson in reference to 18 (3) to which I referred does seem to put a limitation upon the Minister if proceedings should have to be initiated, but when the proceedings are initiated Deputy Johnson will agree that the Minister has power to come in. With regard to this section it surely lies mainly with the interest concerned to make representations to the tribunal. It is incumbent on them to take steps to intervene, and it seems to be rather accepting or taking for granted a thing which is not likely, that people interested in certain matters will not appear. I think it is an unreasonable proposition to put upon the Minister the necessity of engaging extra officials to keep an eye on all matters that might arise before the tribunal.
I suggest that is not involved in this at all. It is not suggested that by the insertion of these words the Minister would have to have somebody always looking after proceedings. As a matter of fact that, if it follows at all, follows from 18 (3) which says that the Minister shall be entitled to appear, but only in proceedings which have been initiated. It might fairly be assumed that that would impose upon the Minister the obligation to have somebody watching proceedings. I am not suggesting that it does, but if he has not already that obligation imposed upon him, it will not be imposed upon him by this amendment. Let me draw attention to the phraseology of this section "with a view to securing and promoting the public safety or the interests of the public." The Minister says he has already power to intervene when a question of public safety arises or the interests of the public or of trade or any particular localities. No doubt in trade matters people interested will apply to be heard, will initiate, or any particular locality will apply for a hearing, but who is to safeguard the interests of the public? The Minister himself has inserted that phrase, "the interest of the public," and surely the Minister is the person concerned with the interests of the public, and obviously, if the interests of the public are to be in his own hands, he ought to have equal rights with trade to apply to the tribunal to be heard in those interests. Now, it may be argued that without inserting these words that any person interested has a right to initiate an application. The object of the amendment is to make it quite definite that he has the right and not to leave the matter open. I ask him is it not true to say that it is his primary duty to safeguard the interests of the public and to initiate applications in that respect?
I would not like to see the Minister taking up the position that Deputy Johnson wants him to take up in this matter. The outside public would be properly represented by public bodies, and it seems to me that if the Minister is going to intervene in the tribunal in connection with every Tom, Dick and Harry who comes along, and says he has got a grievance, he is going to occupy a more grandmotherly position than he already occupies in the Bill. I should say that it would be really courting disaster for the Minister himself to agree to it; and I suggest that the particular cases that Deputy Johnson has referred to—those undemocratic bodies like the municipalities and the Port and Docks Board —might, very properly, take charge of the poor wanderer in the street, who has nobody else to represent him.
Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment 4—In sub-section (1) line 18, to delete the word "ten" and to substitute therefor the word "five."
I beg to move this amendment, on behalf of Deputy Bryan Cooper. The Bill provides that "the railway tribunal . . . . . . may require the amalgamated company or any other railway company . . . . . . to afford such reasonable railway services, facilities and conveniences upon and in connection with its undertaking (including the provision of such minor alterations and extensions and improvements of existing works as will not involve in any one case an expenditure exceeding ten thousand pounds) ...." This amendment proposes to reduce this maximum to five thousand pounds. I confess I can do little more than formally move this amendment. Deputy Bryan Cooper has not left me the arguments with which he would urge it or the eloquence with which he would embellish it. I feel as if I had been left music without words. It is hard to fix a figure of that sort, and perhaps it would be wiser to fix it at a more lenient sum. I formally move the amendment.
This amendment might have been accepted if the proviso had not been in the section. The proviso is:
"If, on any such application, a company satisfies the railway tribunal that, under all the circumstances, the capital required for the purpose cannot be provided or expended as proposed without prejudicially affecting the interests of the then existing stockholders, the order shall not be made."
With that proviso, the sum of ten thousand pounds is not unreasonable.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment 5—In Sub-section (1), line 18, to insert before the word "as" the words "and to conform to arrangements for the prevention of uneconomic working."
This amendment, which stands in the name of Deputy Corish, has some relationship to an earlier amendment, and it is intended to impose upon the company the necessity of conforming to arrangements to prevent uneconomic working. The guarantee that is given might possibly —Deputy Hewat, if he were here, would agree with me in this—mean somnolence to the company if they can arrange to plead before a tribunal and secure such rates as will enable them to pay their dividend, without any active movement towards more economic working, they may do so, and the twenty per cent. provision, passed earlier, may seem not to be quite enough for them. They may argue that way and this amendment is designed to give some kind of supervision, and it suggests that they should conform to arrangements for the prevention of uneconomic working. I do not think there should be any objection to this.
I have simply to point out that Section 52, upon which the adjustment of charges to revenue depends, is based upon efficient and economical working and management. The whole basis of the standard charges is efficient and economical working. It is quite unnecessary to have the phrase repeated here.
The point, of course, is that there is no direct control. It is left to the company, and somebody has to prove before the tribunal that efficient and economical working of the company has been carried out. The Minister, a moment ago, declined to take powers to go before the tribunal, and he has left to private interests to prove before the tribunal that the company is not being worked efficiently and economically. There is a reference in one of these clauses—I think it is 52 —which says:
"The standard charges . . . . shall be such as will . . . . in the opinion of the railway tribunal so far as practicable yield with efficient and economical working and management an annual net revenue . . . ."
But the interests of the existing stockholders have all to be taken account of, and, inasmuch as there is no means of securing, except by the railway tribunal, that this efficient and economical working is being carried through, it is desirable that somebody should be able to initiate before the tribunal, and, having initiated, prove before the tribunal that there is uneconomical working. That is one of the reasons why we moved that it was desirable that the Minister should have power to apply to that tribunal. Now, we are left in the position that unless the tribunal itself is able to find out and initiate an inquiry, on its own account, other interests not being prepared to do so, the railway company itself is to be the judge of the economical working.
This time Section 18, sub-section (3) does come to my assistance—"The Minister shall give to the railway tribunal such assistance as the tribunal may require, and shall place at the disposal of the tribunal any information in his possession which he may think relevant to the matter before the tribunal." That surely gives the Minister power to intervene on his own initiative on the question of the foundation of the standard charges—efficient and economical working. Definitely on that point the Minister has leave to intervene on his own initiative and to bring before the tribunal such matters as he may think relevant to this particular matter.
The Minister is going ahead too quickly, and I am not able to make up my case.
There is a further section, Section 65, sub-section (3), which says:
"The Minister or any other officer duly authorised by him shall have power to make such investigations into the affairs of the amalgamated company as he may deem necessary, and shall have access to the books, accounts and returns of the amalgamated company, and the officers and servants of the company shall afford to the Minister or any such duly authorised officer such facilities as he may require."
I think the efficient and economical working is fully protected, and the Minister's power to intervene is very definitely stated.
I think this amendment raises a vista of difficulties that will confront the tribunal in connection with the Bill. I think we would want the assistance of a dictionary and of every party in the Dáil to find out what is "economical working" in connection with the arrangements that will have to be elaborated to carry out the provisions of this Bill. I am not clear as to how the terms of this amendment could be carried out without a legal argument on every question that arises. We would want the assistance of a very strong Bar. Perhaps a few professors might join in the discussion.
The real difficulty about this section and the real reason why such an amendment as this is required, are found in the first proviso that certain things may be done.
"Provided that if on any such application a company satisfies the railway tribunal that under all the circumstances the capital required for the purpose cannot be provided or expended as proposed without prejudicially affecting the interests of the then existing stockholders, the Order shall not be made."
That question as to whether any new expenditure which is required in the public interest is going to prejudicially affect the interests of the then existing stockholders seems to weaken the whole section, and requires some amendment such as this which has been put down in the name of Deputy Corish, because these interests of existing stockholders may be such that it may be said that the extra 20 per cent., for instance, has to be reckoned as their interests, and that you cannot impose on the company an obligation to undertake certain new works or afford reasonable railway facilities or services because they might prejudicially affect the interests of existing stockholders. It is very often the case, and I am sure Deputy Hewat will recognise this, that it is more beneficial to existing stockholders not to give new services. It is more profitable very often to give a 75 per cent. service than 100 per cent. service, and if any proposal for securing the public interests which might involve new works, and a case is being made before the tribunal that such new works should be entered upon if the company can plead that this would prejudicially affect the interests of existing stockholders then the order shall not be made. I suggest that there you find the necessity of having to impose the requirement that the company shall conform to arrangements for the prevention of uneconomic working. Otherwise the interests of existing stockholders will nullify the effect of this whole section. I think it is quite an important matter, and I would urge upon the Minister that he has not in these other sections the power to deal with that in view of this proviso in this section.
I think Deputy Johnson is quite right, but the remedy is the one I have advocated, to scrap the Bill. Of course, we might get into an argument as to the value of this amendment, but I would rather get into an argument as to the value of the Bill itself, as being simpler than the amendment. The whole thing is bound up here, and it is, in my judgment, an impossible state of affairs. You have got the amalgamated company formed, and I am blessed if I know what they are there for. I have not been able to find it out. You have got a tribunal that is all powerful, and this clause refers to the tribunal questions about whether the company is working on economic grounds or whether it is working on uneconomic grounds. If the company is called upon to spend money by the tribunal, obviously there will be a battle royal between the tribunal and the company as to whether the tribunal is justified on calling on it to spend money. The battle will be as to whether the directors of the company as representing the stockholders have carried out their supposed duties of running the railways on economic lines or whether they have been defaulters in that respect. I hope that the very limited number of members who are sitting on this Committee will read, mark and inwardly digest the whole question. If they come to the conclusion—the Government lambs, or our own particular sections—that the thing is not going to work out in favour of the public I hope they will make their convictions vocal when we come to consider the final stage of the Bill.
The Committee divided: Tá, 10; Níl, 27.
- John J. Cole.
- Tomás Mac Eoin.
- Domhnall O Muigheasa.
- Tadhg O Murchadha.
- Pádraig O hOgáin (An Clár).
- Seán Buitléir.
- W. Hewat.
- Tomás O Conaill.
- Eamon O Dubhghaill.
- Tomás de Nógla.
- Earnán de Blaghd.
- Seoirse de Bhulbh.
- Patrick J. Egan.
- Liam T. Mac Cosgair.
- Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
- Mícheál O hAonghusa.
- Seán O Bruadair.
- Séamus N. O Dóláin.
- Pádraig O Dubhthaigh.
- Eamon S. O Dúgáin.
- Fionán O Loinghsigh.
- James O'Mara.
- Seán M. O Súilleabháin.
- Pádraig Mac Giollagáin.
- Earnán Altún.
- P.T. Baxter.
- Seán de Faoite.
- Desmond Fitzgerald.
- Liam Mac Sioghaird.
- Liam Mag Aonghusa.
- Martin M. Nally.
- Partholán O Conchubhair.
- Seán O Duinnín.
- Máighréad NíChoileáin Bean.
- Uí Dhrisceóil.
- Proinsias O Cathail.
- Domhnall O Mocháin.
- Liam Thrift.
Amendment declared lost.
The following is my amendment:—
In sub-section (1) to delete the first proviso, lines 20 to 24 inclusive, and substitute therefor the following:—
"Provided that before making an order in pursuance of this section the railway tribunal shall consider whether it would be necessary for any such company, in order to comply with the order, to incur capital expenditure or to draw upon its reserve funds for new works or capital improvements to an extent which would seriously prejudice its financial position."
Representatives of agriculture and trade, with the one new lamb of an exception, have all decided that they will allow, in the interests of the railway companies, a railway company to run economical engines, with their old-fashioned boilers, notwithstanding any new improvements that may be current in the world of transport. The new Board will be free to carry on uneconomically because they are going to get the standard dividend from the trading public of this country, and the interests of trade and commerce are all quite satisfied with that condition of affairs.
I am going to give them another opportunity in this amendment to retrieve the position. The section as it stands says that if the company satisfy the tribunal that the capital required for any improvement in accommodation or engines and trucks, cannot be provided without prejudicially affecting the interests of the existing shareholders, the order shall not be made. We shall go along in the old sweet way.
Possibly worse, unless somebody can intervene and persuade the tribunal that the interest of the shareholders shall not be prejudicially affected. This proposal is carried over from the British Act, but it met with a good deal of opposition from the agricultural and trading interests, at least a good many of them opposed this proviso because of its reactionary effect, and because it gave too much protection to the interest of the shareholders against the interests of the trading public. The amendment is going a very long way; it at least helps to protect the trading public, and it enables the tribunal to say that the financial position of the company would not be prejudiced by this new expenditure, or by the improvements that are sought for. The existing stockholders and their interests are safeguarded thoroughly, and the premium is paid upon the easy going board in the proviso that is in the Bill. The amendment, I suggest, makes an improvement upon that, and allows the tribunal to insist on those improvements in services, provided that the new capital expenditure that may be required would not be such as would seriously prejudice the financial position of the company. I suggest that the real purpose of the Minister would be accomplished by the amendment, whereas the existing stockholders are the only people benefited by the proviso in the Bill, and that benefit may be secured to the stockholders to the prejudice of the interest of the trading public.
It always gives me the greatest possible pleasure when I am able to be convinced by Deputy Johnson that an amendment of this sort is acceptable to this side as well as to his. I always feel we are marching towards an ideal state of affairs when he and I agree. I commend this amendment to the Farmer's Party. I think it is a very excellent amendment; at all events, it does something towards galvanising life into the dead body that we are going to have put around our necks, so to speak, by the Bill. Although I know my views, as far as the Minister is concerned, have no effect, still I commend the amendment to him as an improvement on what is in the Bill in the interests of the general trading community and of the Farmers' Party.
I wonder if Deputy Hewat was not rather too easily persuaded by the subtle words of Deputy Johnson, because as I read this suggested proviso it is not a proviso at all. It does not provide for the order not being made if such expenditure should be detrimental to the company, but it simply says that before the order was made an inquiry should be made to see if it will do so. But I see no words in it to say that in such and such an event the order shall not be made.
If the Deputy would read sub-section (1) he will see that the whole section is to give the tribunal power to do this thing. The railway tribunal may by order require the amalgamated company to do certain things.
The proviso in the Bill says, "provided that the interests of the stockholders will not be detrimentally affected," and the suggested proviso does not contain these words.
No, but the suggested proviso does not prevent a railway tribunal from making an order if it is persuaded that it ought.
The Committee divided: Tá, 14; Níl, 23.
- Pádraig Baxter.
- Seán Buitléir.
- John J. Cole.
- John Conlan.
- Seán de Faoite.
- William Hewat.
- Tomás Mac Eoin.
- Tomás de Nógla.
- Tomás O Conaill.
- Eamon O Dubhghaill.
- Domhnall O Mocháin.
- Domhnall O Muirgheasa.
- Tadhg O Murchadha.
- Pádraig O hOgáin (An Clár).
- Earnán Altún.
- Earnán de Blaghd.
- Seoirse de Bhulbh.
- Próinsias Bulfin.
- Máighréad Ní Choileán Bean
- Uí Dhrisceóil.
- Patrick J. Egan.
- Desmond Fitzgerald.
- Liam T. Mac Cosgair.
- Pádraig Mac Giollagáin.
- Liam Mac Sioghaird.
- Liam Mag Aonghusa.
- Martin M. Nally.
- Mícheál O hAonghusa.
- Seán O Bruadair.
- Próinsias O Cathail.
- Partholán O Conchubhair.
- Séamus N. O Dóláin.
- Pádraig O Dubhthaigh.
- Fionán O Loingsigh.
- Pádraig O Máille.
- James O'Mara.
- Seán M. O Súilleabháin.
- Liam Thrift.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
The amendment was declared lost.
I beg to move:—
In sub-section (1) to add in line 28 after the word "facilities" the words "and on any such application the railway tribunal shall have due regard to the provisions of Section 29 of this Act which for the purposes of this section shall be deemed to apply to any proceedings thereunder."
This deals with the protection of ports. As I have exhausted all my eloquence without any effect on the Minister on that subject, unless some other member of the Committee has got some eloquence that might have some effect, I think I will leave it at that.
This amendment is quite unnecessary. Section 29, which is referred to in the amendment, protects the ports to the fullest, and there is no necessity for bringing in a reference to Section 29 to the tribunal, when the tribunal would definitely have the section before them.
Question—"That Section 55 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
(1) For enabling a railway company to effect alterations, extensions, and improvements of existing works in pursuance of an order of the railway tribunal or of the Minister, the Minister may, after compliance with the provisions of this section, authorise the railway company to acquire the land and easements and to construct the works necessary to effect the alterations, extensions, and improvements aforesaid.
(2) Before an order is made under this section the railway company shall deposit with the Minister such plans, specifications, and other documents as shall be required by the Minister, and after the deposit of such documents the Minister shall give public notice, in such manner as he may consider best adapted for informing persons likely to be affected by the order, of his intention to consider the making thereof and of the manner in which and the time within which representations and objections in respect of the order may be made, and shall, if he shall consider it expedient so to do, cause a public inquiry to be held in regard to any matter relating to the making of such order.
(3) An order made under this section may—
(a) incorporate the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919, with the modification that the expression “public authority” shall include the said railway company, and
(b) the Lands Clauses Acts, so far as the same are not inconsistent with the said Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919.
(4) No order shall be made under this section in respect of any matter which the Minister is of opinion, as a result of representations made to him or the report of the person holding a public inquiry, or otherwise, is of such a character or magnitude that it ought not to be proceeded with without the authority of the Oireachtas obtained by way of private Bill.
The amendment in my name reads:—
To add at the end of sub-section (4), after the word "Bill," a proviso in the following words: "Provided that nothing contained in this section shall authorise either of the amalgamated companies at any time to acquire by compulsory powers any part of lands or premises in the possession or occupation of the Dublin Port and Docks Board, or of which they are owners."
I ask the leave of the Committee to amend this by substituting "amalgamated company" for "either of the amalgamated companies."
Leave to amend amendment granted.
I beg to move the amendment in the amended form. The Port and Docks Board is elected on a democratic franchise, and is a very estimable body carrying on valuable public work. In my judgment it is a much more important body than the amalgamated company. To give power to the lesser to acquire the greater does not seem to be quite desirable legislation. The Board owns property in and around the Port of Dublin, and the acquisition of certain lands by the amalgamated company would affect detrimentally their control over the Port in its beneficent working for the public good. I base my amendment on the great public importance of the Port and Docks Board to the community. Their services in the past have been very great, and in the future will be of still greater value. To allow the amalgamated company to interfere with their operations will not be desirable.
There is nothing sacrosanct about the Port and Docks Board or their property, and they are simply placed on a footing here with any other company. Provision is made for the hearing of objections and representations to be made by the objecting party. After these representations have been made, if the tribunal considers that a case has been made out for the acquisition of land belonging to the Board, then that land is going to be acquired.
I am afraid being faced with that, though I could claim, I would not get the support of the parties of the Opposition, and so I do not press the amendment.
Deputy Hewat has raised a rather important question, and I would like to ask the Minister whether that general question was not secured in sub-section (4), which seems to prevent the acquisition of land without the ordinary procedure.
Except, of course, it be of such "a character or magnitude." If it be of such character or magnitude that seems to require private Bill legislation that would be the procedure, and I suppose the Port and Docks Board are specially safeguarded by that.
Question—"That Section 56 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
(1) Any agreement which may hereafter be entered into for the purchase, lease, or working by the amalgamated company of any part of the system of another railway company may, subject to the provisions of this section and after such notices and inquiries as the Minister shall consider necessary or expedient, be confirmed by the Minister.
(2) No such agreement as aforesaid shall, without the authority of the Oireachtas, be valid or effectual unless and until it is confirmed by the Minister under this section, but if and when so confirmed shall be of full force and validity and may be carried into effect by the parties thereto without any further authorisation by the Oireachtas.
(3) No agreement shall be confirmed by the Minister under this section which, in his opinion, is of such a character or magnitude that it ought not to be proceeded with without the authority of the Oireachtas obtained by way of private Bill.
Question—"That Section 57 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Is it proposed to go on with section 58 tonight?
This is a stage at which I think we could very reasonably call a halt. If Deputies will look at the amendment paper they will see that several amendments stand in the name of Deputy Duggan. These represent a further consideration that has been given to Section 58 as it stands, and the conclusions arrived at as the result of such consideration. Even with the amendments proposed it is found that the section is not satisfactory, and it is proposed to have a new section submitted to the House substituting it for this section. I propose to have this amendment in the hands of Deputies early tomorrow. It would read this way:
In Section 58—Delete sub-sections (1) and (2) and substitute therefor the following:—
(1) Nothing in this Act shall prejudice or affect the rights or liabilities of any amalgamating or absorbed company under any agreement or arrangement (being an agreement or arrangement not confirmed by nor scheduled to a statutory enactment) in existence at the passing of this Act except in so far as the same are inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, but from and after the passing of this Act it shall not be lawful for any amalgamating or absorbed company or for the amalgamated company to vary or rescind any agreement or arrangement (being an agreement or arrangement not confirmed by nor scheduled to a statutory enactment) with any other railway company or other transport undertaking for the allocation or routing of traffic or the pooling of receipts or for differential rates on traffic passing by sea to or from Saorstát Eireann or to enter into agreements for any of those purposes except in so far as may be authorised or required by an Order made with due regard to the provisions of this Act by the railway tribunal on the application of any party to such agreement or arrangement or of a representative body of traders or of a body of persons representative of trade or a locality.
at this stage resumed the Chair.
The object of the new amendment will be to include all arrangements or agreements which are cut out from Section 29 in its proposed form, and it seeks to provide that these agreements or arrangements shall be continued without prejudice or without being affected, and that the variation or recision of these may be got on foot of an order of the railway tribunal after representation has been made. I propose that we adjourn at this point. I move to report progress.